Mill Valley, California. -- Two problems peculiar to this season are high summer unemployment and the waning popularity of baseball. Because I figure -- hey, why solve one problem when you can knock off two -- I hereby present my plan for Reducing Unemployment and Restoring Baseball to Its Former Prominence:
The Anthony Young Summer Jobs Program.
Anthony Young, for those of you who don't make it to the sports pages, is the New York Mets pitcher who recently set a record for futility. At this writing, he's lost 26 games in a row.
The criterion for pitching in the big leagues always has been "Can he win in the majors?" It's obvious that that's no longer the case: Losing doesn't matter. Which brings me to my great plan:
Give young people Mr. Young's job.
In other words, get kids in their late teens and 20s who can't find work, and put them on the mound pitching for a couple of innings.
I've thought about this a great deal, and I can only come up with two objections:
* Kids off the street can't win in the majors. HEL-LOO. Neither can Anthony Young. I mean, I don't like to brag, but I could lose 26 consecutive games. In fact, I can say without fear of contradiction that I don't know anyone who could compile a worse record than Mr. Young has in his last 26 decisions. So why not spread the glory around a bit?
* The games would never end. Look: Baseball players don't want to hang out at the ballpark any more than you do at the office. They have families to attend to, girlfriends to date, portfolios to manage. So you put some kid who can't get anyone out up on the mound, and the opposing team will bat around a couple of times, score 20 or so runs, and then they'll start striking out on purpose or get thrown out trying to take an extra base. Game over.
Now, contrast those inconsequential problems with these amazing benefits:
* Baseball interest will fly off the map. You get some kid from your town pitching in a baseball game, and hundreds of people will flock to the ballpark to see him. Multiply this by seven or eight pitchers a game, and you're talking a few thousand extra people in the stands. Not to mention all the renewed interest of kids everywhere who dream of pitching in the big leagues.
* Good pay. Let's say Anthony Young conservatively makes a thousand dollars for every inning he pitches. A high school kid could work all summer in a menial, dull job and not clear much more than he'd make pitching that one inning in the majors. And the inning would be so much more memorable.
* Enhanced self-esteem. What kid wouldn't feel like a million bucks pitching in front of thousands of cheering fans to the likes of Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey and Cal Ripken Jr.? It might make him feel so terrific that he'd come away really determined to do something great in life.
* The Rocky factor. The possibility exists that some undiscovered talent who for some reason never had the chance would become a sensation and work his way into a regular spot in the rotation.
* It doesn't cost the taxpayers money. The revenues come from the teams and the paying fans. Letting eight or nine kids pitch in Mr. Young's place every five days over the course of a season would provide hundreds of jobs.
In the interest of fairness, each major-league team would free up one position in its starting-pitcher rotation for the public. Thousands of jobs would be gained, and baseball would regain its place as our national pastime.
Stan Sinberg is a columnist with the Marin Independent Journal.